Canadian

Alfred Valdmanis and the Politics of Survival by Gerhard P. Bassler

By Gerhard P. Bassler

Alfred Valdmanis is better recognized in Canada for his notorious position in most efficient Joey Smallwood's scheme to industrialize Newfoundland. A Latvian immigrant, he used to be appointed Director normal of monetary improvement in 1950 with the certainty that via his connections to Europe he may possibly attract German and Baltic industrialists to the remoted, rural island. His effect used to be delivered to an abrupt finish whilst, in 1954, he was once charged with defrauding the govt.. The media, latching directly to his murky earlier and his attainable association with warfare criminals, made him the scapegoat of Newfoundland's difficulties, portray him as half comic, half sinister villain.

This used to be no longer the 1st time his identify used to be hooked up with debatable concerns. Valdmanis's wily political manoeuvring is extra the stuff of fiction than historical past. among 1938, at age 29, and his ironic downfall within the refuge of Canada, he was once a finance minister of pre-war Latvia, a central authority respectable in the course of the Soviet invasion, a smart collaborator lower than the Nazi career, then, a chum to the Allies, a spokesman for Latvian POW and displaced folks, and an adviser to the govt. of Canada. during this first critical biography of Alfred Valdamis historian Gerhard Bassler casts the tale of this political manipulator and chameleon in new phrases: the customarily tragic results of the desire to survive.

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Clearly, the prospects for unity, stability, and growth appeared anything but certain. Nonetheless, despite the severity of wartime destruction and the requirements of restructuring, independent Latvia enjoyed continuous growth with a high rate of employment and a steady rise in the volume of trade. Industries relied on local resources - agricultural, wood, brick, cement, and chemical products. 21 Britain was buying much more (especially agricultural pro- Wunderkind in Reborn Latvia, 1908-1938 17 duce) than it sold, while Germany sold more than it bought.

Schmidt (after 1935 known as Rigas Cementa Fabrikas),71' remained one of his mentors and closest friends until 1954. Valdmanis's ethical standards appear to have brought him lifetime enemies. In his capacity as legal counsel, he became aware of the involvement of some of the banks in unsavoury deals with politicians and parlia- Wunderkind in Reborn Latvia, 1908-1938 33 mentarians. 'The young jurist would not accept the corrupt customs of the day. With barely concealed contempt he opposed many important men in parliament and court,' Zemgals relates.

The main instrument designed to accomplish this was the Credit Bank of Latvia (Latvijas Kreditbanka), founded in 1935 with the Ministry of Finance as its largest shareholder. One of its official functions was to liquidate banks and businesses having financial difficulties, especially if their shares were controlled by foreigners and members of national minorities. The influence of the Credit Bank was felt in every industrial, commercial, and agricultural activity of the country. ' The elimination of 'foreign' economic influences was only one aspect of a deliberate drive to industrialize Latvia.

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